Emily Morton is used to dealing with childish behavior for a living. Only now, it comes from actual children instead of politicians.
The second-year kindergarten teacher at Haw Creek Elementary School used to work for a lobby firm before working for former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. When Morton had twins, she stepped away from politics for good.
When Morton’s children entered school, she started to regularly volunteer in the classroom. Morton enjoyed spending more time with her kids, but she was also fascinated by the teaching. Turns out, Morton’s first college major was early childhood education.
Eventually she started to substitute teach, and when someone at the school district mentioned a way to get a teaching degree in two years, Morton signed on.
Two years later, she was back to her original plan and teaching kindergarten at Haw Creek.
“I knew the minute I started student teaching at the school that was exactly where I was supposed to be,” Morton said.
Readers recently gave Morton some extra validation in career change, voting her the Forsyth County News’s Teacher of the Month for April.
Morton talked with the FCN about the similarities between working with politicians and children,
What was your first year teaching like?
“It's amazing. It's nerve-wracking, because you want to do right by those children, and kindergarten is a whole nother level of those nerves. A lot of times for parents it’s the first time letting go of their babies, and it's those kids' first chance at school.
“I tell the parents my goal this year is to make them love school. I want kids to love to learn. Teaching and learning, it should be joyful. If you're not having fun as a teacher, you shouldn't be there. It's supposed to be a joyful happy place to go.
How did you develop your teaching style?
“Probably a lot of it comes from parenting, and I'm lucky that I'm in kindergarten, because I feel like I get to help them very early on understand that when you go to school, you want to be a positive influence and a positive role model.
“Like I always tell my kids, you want to hear your name in my classroom, because I’m not going to call you out for not doing what you're supposed to do. I'm going to recognize you for doing what you're supposed to do. It's kind of the same thing when you're parenting small children at home, too. Catch them when they're being good, and you encourage those behaviors, you encourage the positive behaviors.
“Also, I’ll say student teaching with (first-grade teacher) Mrs. (Elizabeth) Estrada. I watched her, and I was like, ‘She's like a magician.’ Everyone in her classroom, they rise to the occasion, and they behave for her. It's the most amazing thing.
“All she does all day is tell them how great they are. ‘You make me so happy. You're just a bucket-filler. You have filled my bucket with joy today.’ She's just the most positive, encouraging person.”
Are there any similarities between working in politics and teaching?
“Well, it's dealing with children, right? Dealing with childish behavior. I'm just kidding, kind of.
“The one thing that does translate across both is the importance of building relationships. Not every job requires you to have a significant personal relationship with who you work with. But teaching for sure does, and in politics I definitely had to have a lot of relationships. I needed a lot of volunteers to help, to get votes.
“But working with children and 5-year-olds is much more fulfilling than working in politics.”
What’s your favorite thing about teaching?
“There's not many professions where you're greeted with a big smile and a big hug or, 'I'm so happy to see you,' or 'I love you.' It's just the best.
“I stand out in the hall every morning and greet them as they come down the hall, and it's like 7:15 in the morning, and I'm barely half awake, but here they come just skipping down the hall.
“And they're like, 'good morning!' I think, ‘It is a good morning. You're right. We're here.’ I've missed that so, so much.”